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Day 13) Online Money Management Tools (part 3)

Welcome to Day 13 of Where’s My Money Going? Month! This February 2009, I’m challenging readers (and myself) to track spending manually for 28 days. Don’t worry if you’re late to the party, you’re still welcome to join. Consider tracking your spending into March.

Even though I’m tracking my money manually this month, I’ll be reviewing some programs which allow you to automatically track your accounts online. Keeping all your account information in one place can speed up manual tracking or help you do less of it, simply reconciling your numbers periodically.

Yesterday and the day before I reviewed Mint.com, Geezeo, Quicken Online and Yodlee. Today I’ll be writing about Wesabe, Buxfer, and Expensr. All seven are free, trusted places to monitor your money online. I have tried out all 7 and will be sharing my thoughts about the pros and cons of using each.

Trying Out Wesabe

Wesabe is similar to Geezeo, in that it combines social networking with financial tracking. You have a username, can set goals and join groups. Plus there are tips, which are possibly advertising related (it’s hard to tell) but seem to be submitted by users.

When tagging transactions, you can create tags that apply to every transaction from that store, otherwise it doesn’t seem to automatically assume that a transaction should be tagged with one thing or another. You can also rate how much you like a merchant.

Wesabe also allows you to create your own charts for tracking particular spending tags. It takes up a bit more space than most budgets do because there are special charts for each, but if you’re only tracking a few things then no biggie.

Since I’ve mentioned how others react to ING Direct, I’ll add that Wesabe seems to have no problem with them.

All in all, Wesabe didn’t appeal to me very much. Maybe it’s because I’m not looking for a social network and that’s its only real advantage over some of the others.

Trying Out Buxfer

Buxfer is the only one of the online programs I reviewed to have different membership levels. You can get a Basic membership for free. Plus costs $1.79/month and Pro costs $2.79/month. Plus offers unlimited budgets, accounts, bill reminders as well as cashflow projections. Pro offers the same plus no advertising.

What impressed me most about Buxfer was the security login options. You don’t have to store your bank account login data on a server, you can have it stored sort-of locally if you’d like (computer option) or you can enter it yourself every time.

I think if you’re very concerned about security, then the option of entering it each time is probably the best for you. The problem with that option is that you have to update each account separately. That becomes kind of a pain.

Buxfer has an interesting take on social networking. It’s not as open and doesn’t feel as integrated as Geezeo or Wesabe, but it does allow you to create contacts and groups. What I found most interesting and unique is that you can track what different contacts owe you (or what you owe them). It’s not a bad idea, since it keeps the need for repayment fresh in both of your minds. I don’t know if that makes it play out better or not.

Buxfer also allows you to create simple budgets for transactions with specific tags.

I’d say that Buxfer is the best choice for a) those who are highly security-conscious (though check out Expensr’s options too), b) those who would like to network but only with people they know, c) those who lend or borrow frequently and can persuader their creditors/debtors to sign up too.

Trying Out Expensr

I think Expensr is even more secure than Buxfer. The downside is that it’s even more awkward to use. Expensr will let you import your data, but only if you can export it from your bank website in an OFX format. They won’t even touch your bank’s website.

This is a great option for those who want to enter things manually anyway but want access to their finances online. It’s also a good option if you’re quite concerned about security and don’t even like Buxfer’s option of only connecting one time. For people who are looking for convenience and who trust the security at the other companies, this is probably not the right choice.

Expensr is a bit of a community site, you can create a profile and make friends but it doesn’t seem to have the groups/goals options that Geezeo and Wesabe offer. Because you create tags for yourself in your profile, you can compare yourself to other people who’ve described themselves similarly.

For example, I could compare myself to other people tagged with “in my twenties” “employed full time” etc.

The Expensr blog has information about using the site as well as periodic financial posts.

Anyway, I don’t think it’s the best site if you’re looking for social interaction…I’d probably choose Geezeo and Wesabe first. But it’s perfect for people who are only interested in entering things manually or who are uber-security conscious.

Which Web-Based Money Tracking Software Is Best?

Each of these options has upsides depending on your needs. If you’re looking for a social network, then Geezeo, Wesabe, Buxfer, and Expensr all have different types of communities. My description of each may help you out, or you can sign up and take a look at each without setting up accounts yet.

If you’re very concered about your financial information (though none of these sites should store your account #), then Buxfer or Expensr are your best choices.

If you’d like to be able to pay your bills from the site or you want a very professional (and secure) site, try Yodlee, with its features and ING Direct-like login process.

If you want to track your money without extra hassle, get alerts, create easy budgets, and don’t want to participate in communities, then give Mint or Quicken Online a try.

Do you use one of these sites to track your finances? What’s your experience been?

This post was part of Where’s My Money Going? Month. Tomorrow is a guest post by a reader who has been tracking her finances since she was 16!


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Grant Baldwin February 13, 2009 at 8:39 am

Great summary of some great tools out there!

Are you going to do any summaries of any offline tools such as Quicken or Microsoft Money?

ColombianCoffee February 13, 2009 at 2:27 pm

these were great reviews and confirmed that I made the right choice for me. I honestly don’t like the social aspect of budgeting and finances, I think it should be mostly private, but that’s me

Aya @ Thrive February 13, 2009 at 3:25 pm

We’ve been forgotten! 🙁
That’s impressive though Mrs. Micah, trying out so many options and writing about their differences requires a lot of effort. Except, some services get better over time or become better as the user adjusts so it’s hard to review them within a short period of time. I’m sure this post will be a good resource; it’s always hard to know which one will be the best fit and I bet not everyone will want to try them all out like you were willing to!

Jo February 14, 2009 at 9:55 am

Ava, I have tried quite a few budget programs and have yet to find a true fit. I think, too, I am a bit OCD as well. But I prefer to look at it as a hobby; I truly enjoy playing with numbers and “what-if” scenarios.

I enjoyed the 3-part serious of budgeting software. There was only one – Buxfer – that I’d never heard of. I went ahead and checked it out. Not too bad.

ColumbianCoffee, I have to agree with you that I am not overly big on the social aspect of financial aspect. If I was to use one and become active, socially, Wesabe is truly nice.

We’re all different, however, so we have to do what’s right for us because in the long run, the end goal should be how we come out of it regarding our spending vs. our saving.

Amphritrite February 16, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Hi 🙂

I use Xpenser in probably what is an unconvenntional way, in that I use it to both track savings and track spending. It’s a good fit for me because it’s easy to upload/download things between it and Google Spreadsheets. I agree, however, that the interface could use some serious work, but I do like that I can IM-to-Xpenser and such.

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